This summer we are having a week in The Cotswolds in a Holiday Cottage with our Working Cocker Spaniel - Poppy instead of the annual trip to Malta.
My wife just fancied a quiet week with Poppy relaxing and without the harassment of airports, hiring cars etc in what has become one of the most highly populated countries in Europe.
Below: Murcott Farm; the house where we are staying in the Old Dairy
It's different here; we are staying in a holiday cottage near Gloucester and it is very quiet. Our cottage is an old dairy attached to a 17th Century farmhouse, converted into a small, but cosy cottage.
The EAM is very familiar with the West Midlands having visited many fruit growers in the area in my working days; many of whom have become good friends.
This week the Journal will be a collection of 'bits & pieces' - impressions from our week away.
Just 10 minutes away from our holiday cottage, a very impressive smokery which has expanded to become a farm shop, purveyor of the finest fish (smoked and fresh) a cafe and a fine restaurant.
Severn & Wye Smokery is situated between these two great salmon rivers on the edge of the Royal Forest of Dean. Starting with two flagship products, smoked wild salmon and smoked eel, the business has grown to produce a full range of smoked fish products.
The BARN has only been open for 18 months, but already a must visit location. On Monday my wife and I enjoyed a superb 'full English Breakfast' before spending 'more than a few pounds' on the finest fresh salmon and crab meat.
Below: The Barn at Severn and Wye Smokery
Oh! and my dear wife succumbed to a poncho and scarf in the shop.
For a more extensive visit, click on: The Barn at Severn & Wye Smokery
On Tuesday we were invited to have lunch with Cilla and Tim at Redbank in Ledbury. They are old friends and Cilla is mother to one of the most successful soft fruit growers in the UK with overseas growing operations in South Africa, Portugal, Poland and China.
His latest venture - partnering Simon Day in Haygrove Evolution Haygrove Evolution with the winery at Redbank Farm.
Cilla is redeveloping her farm, from apples into a mix of vines and apples. Removing the older apple orchards (Bramley & Cox) and expanding the Jazz and Gala area.
Click on Simon Day and Haygrove Evolution for a detailed insight into Simon's link with Angus Davidson and wine production.
Below: In Dymock Woods with Poppy
Wednesday and we took Poppy to Dymock Woods and then stopped for a light lunch at The Walwyn Arms in Much Marcle. The Walwyn Arms
On Thursday after walking Poppy in Beechenhurst Woods we met old friends Rob and Liz Simpson for lunch in the Restaurant at The Barn at Severn and Wye Smokery - An excellent lunch with our friends and in a superb setting.
Later that day we met up with Joe Pardoe an organic grower at Putley. The English Apple Man and Mrs Apple Man had not seen Joe for 15 years; not long after his father Ian died in 2003. Ian had forged a career as a successful organic apple, pear and plum grower who sold his fruit over a wide area of the West Midlands, with his sons David and Joe delivering to Ian's customers.
Now 16 years later, Joe has taken on the mantle of organic grower and rationalised the business from over 100 acres of older trees down to a compact 32 acres of carefully selected varieties with more regular cropping cycles.
Joe has also settled into happily married life with his wonderful wife Carolyn and their two delightful daughters.
With Carolyn's support the business is now on a very firm footing and a joy to visit.
Back in Ian's day, it was 'feast and fast' with a very heavy crop one year and often very little the following year.
Joe has planted more Plums; many varieties from Germany adding to some of the better known UK varieties 'traditional' to the West Midlands. Scrumptious, Santana, Natyra, apples - Conference pears on a Vee System and Cherries add to the eclectic mix of Plums which include Hanka.
Below: left; Joe's Vee System Conference pears and right; Cherries
Below: left; A view of a new plum orchard and right; Hanka plum trees
Below: left; Hanka plums and right; Natyra apples
Below: Michael Bentley and Clive Maille
Today (Friday) we visited Michael Bentley at BENTLEYS Castle Farm at Newent for 'coffee & a catch up' - When Michael and Chrissy Bentley bought Castle Farm in 2002, they inherited a very fine Farm manager in Clive Maille. Between them they fashioned a fruit farm with traditional and modern varieties of Apple, Pear, Plums and Cherries while retaining the tradition of a family fruit farm and protecting the biodiversity of the land for future generations.
Castle Fruit Farm was recently awarded the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) 'Silver Pintail Trophy' in recognition of their commitment to sustainable agricultural practices and wildlife protection.
Michael is very concerned (as are many fruit growers about Brexit) "The impact of Brexit is still unclear both for our farm and all others who need seasonal labour. Listening to the current debate, not much has changed and there has been very little response from the government, who do not appear to understand the consequences to the rural economy, food security and the survival of our agricultural and horticultural sector"
Chrissy Bentley and Michael featured in Waitrose Magazine
After leaving Bentleys, we made our way to Dymock Wood for Poppy's morning walk - 'a wet one' and on the way back spotted some cider trees still in bloom!
Below: A Cider tree in full bloom on Friday 7th June
Our last stop off for lunch was at Trioscape, a Garden Centre at Highleadon not far from Newent.
Click on TRIOSCAPE for more on this independent garden centre.
Later this afternoon, The English Apple Man made a second visit to Over Farm Shop a farm shop that started in 1982 when the farmer decided to start selling his produce direct to the consumer.
There I met Barry (one of the directors) who told me some of the history of Over Farm Shop; a 'genuine' retail outlet for produce grown on the farm and by local producers.
"Over Farm grows more than 15 different crops throughout the year which are sold in our farm shop, all our produce is grown seasonally, so there is asparagus in spring, plenty of fresh, juicy strawberries, including pick your own in the summer and pumpkins and squash in the autumn. Take a look at our produce timeline to see what Over Farm currently has in season"
Earlier in the week, we bought the most beautiful home made fudge! Today more fudge, steak pasties and Bakewell tarts (all home made) - next a photo-call with Jan and Jake in the Butchery before catching up with Julie who we had met earlier in the week. Fortuitously she was discussing sauces with local supplier Tom the creator of Tubby Tom's Spicy Sauces - Tubby Tom's Spicy Sauces
Below: left; Over Farm Market and right; Barry in the fresh produce sector
Below: left; The cake, pastries and sweet counter and right; 'Tubby Tom' and Julie
Below: left; Dan and Jake in the Butchery and right; superb quality fresh meat
Click on Over Farm Shop for a more detailed look at this excellent farm shop!
That's all for this week
The English Apple Man